The use of technology has transformed dramatically over the last five years; today, technology plays a key role in most people’s lives. Self-service technologies are becoming the norm, tech-savvy employees are becoming more self-empowered and rapid business change is widening the gap between what IT provides and what the business needs.
For IT operations to improve end user satisfaction, it’s important to first understand the current gaps and business perception of IT by opening communication channels using surveys, interviews, regular meetings and asses capabilities with the business strategy. Some of the most common challenges businesses face today with IT departments is lack of innovation, delivery time, service quality and availability.
Actions IT operations can take to improve user satisfaction
Increased demand for IT services to meet business demands for quicker and more cost-effective solutions for the business could increase risks and challenges. To keep up with the business growth, IT operations need to evolve from back-end support that spends most of the time in administrative activities and firefighting to oversight and direction setting.
Communication plays an important role in understanding the gaps between user perceptions of a service versus IT. This can be achieved by opening communication channels with business leaders and understanding their perspectives on the quality of existing services. Surveys are great tools that can be designed to target two levels of users within an organization – users and management.
User-based surveys will focus more on end-user services whereas management surveys will portray an overview of IT performance on project delivery, IT innovation and management perception. This will also enable IT operations to understand business priorities, allowing IT operations to target high-impact, high-value items from a business perspective. Conducting technology workshops will educate the business on market trends and new technology; vendors can also be invited as part of the agenda to talk about their solutions. IT departments generally have the insight to new technologies that are emerging in the market and this knowledge needs to be shared with the business.
A clear understanding of services being provided and mapping each activity within IT operations to business value will enable IT, along with the business, to conduct a cost-versus-value analysis, therefore identifying suppliers that provided optimal value to the organisation. With the implementation of ITIL best practices, IT operations will be able to document business expectation on quality and availability of services and work towards a documented service level agreement (SLA).
Pitfalls IT operations should avoid along the path of improving end-user satisfaction
With the increase in business demands, IT operations could end up with a highly complex architecture with limited control. Implementing technologies to enable virtualisation, cloud and automation does not mean IT operations’ focus on technology has reduced; it only means it’s shifted to a much higher level.
Lack of customer understanding can lead to a poor strategic plan. IT operations needs to segment its customers depending on their needs. In a typical IT operations organisation, customers could vary from internal customers within IT, business users and overall customers of the organisation. As part of prioritization, it’s important to segment them based on business value. Without clear, documented value statements and cost elements for services all customers will demand the highest priority in terms of SLAs and best-of-breed technology.
Strong governance and control is an important element that needs to be considered during each and every step of implementing business supporting services, outsourcing and moving into a cloud environment. With the increased pressure on IT operations to deliver on time and at a lower cost, documentation and compliance needs are generally ignored.
Security, BCP and compliance play an important role in strengthening the existing architecture, which needs to be considered and built into the process. While trying to implement solutions like BYOD, IT operations need to consider that not every employee is a candidate of BYOD; a clear analysis has to be done considering all elements which include regulatory, sensitivity of data being handled, legacy application dependency and security.
With the implementation of cloud, virtualisation and automation, it is important to reallocate staff on other activities that will be required to manage these environments. A clear understanding of cost—both capital and operational—needs to be understood by all IT operations organisations. With the necessary tools, IT operations need to focus not just on existing business demands but forecast the growth and required resources as well.
With new ways of doing things, IT operations tends to ignore the need to create new roles that will include architects, vendor managers and process experts. Employee morale needs to be considered as part of outsourcing certain functions in IT operations. Although, with the help of reallocating staff to other functions, it’s inevitable that some of the employees will have to leave the organisation due to lack of motivation to take on the new role, lack of skills or the role becoming redundant.
Rewarding staff based on how quickly a problem is solved rather than fixing the underlying problems can lead to temporary fixes. IT operations management needs to develop measurements and rewards that favour long-term improvement in both efficiency and performance. Objectives for operational staff are not set on the quality and availability of services and more around implementing or upgrading solutions.
Recommendation for action
It’s important to understand the direction of the organisation and build your strategic plan according to the business needs. All of the above technologies will ease the operational and repetitive administrative activities to focus more on transforming to a business partner by not only giving solutions but into becoming more proactive and consultative to the business. The pitfalls that have been listed are few elements to consider as part implementing technology and processes.
Once the business directions are well understood by IT operations management, it’s important to understand existing weakness and strengths that help achieve the business objectives. Conducting a self-assessment with tools that are readily available, such as SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) and balance score card to understand the organisation’s maturity level that will enable IT operations to design the strategic plan which will include all elements required to support the business.
The strategic plan needs to be agreed by both business and IT with clear buy-in from senior management. The strategic plan needs to be a living document and could change based on the direction of the organisation or the external market. In today’s era, it is not feasible to set the strategic plan in stone due to an evolving dynamic market and the pace at which new technologies are being introduced.